Airplane lands on Robb Road

Hinton Voice Staff


A plane flying to Edmonton from British Columbia made an emergency landing on Robb Road on July 31, about 11 km south of Hinton.

At 3:42 p.m., Hinton RCMP responded to a 911 call of a plane blocking traffic on the roadway.  

The plane suffered a mechanical issue and the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing. The plane clipped a fifth wheel while it was landing, but no one was injured.

The plane was towed off the road with the assistance of a passerby who happened upon the scene.  

The RCMP have contacted the Transportation Safety Board to conduct any follow up investigation.

Hinton Abilities Network to support special needs

Masha Scheele
reporter@hintonvoice.ca


When Holly LeFrancois and her family moved to Hinton a year ago, they quickly noticed there wasn’t a lot of support for adults with special needs.

LeFrancois has a son with needs who will be an adult in a few short years and her family wants to ensure he will have a safe place to live with assistance in Hinton.

For this reason, LeFrancois took the initiative to start the Hinton Abilities Network page on Facebook to spark conversations and networking with those who live with a loved one with disabilities or whoever is facing limitations.

“Keeping our community members with challenges in their own community is fundamental to enhancing their quality of life. Living with challenges is not a one size fits all and not everyone needs or wants to live in a city,” LeFrancois said.

The goal of the Abilities Network is to bridge the gap to the appropriate resources to “live, work, play” in Hinton for those with cognitive or intellectual challenges and physical limitations.

After speaking with other parents and community members, LeFrancois heard it was the norm for families or adults with special housing needs to move away from Hinton in order to source equitable housing and work opportunities elsewhere.

Hinton does not have any assisted living homes at this time and job and recreational opportunities have typically been limited for those with needs, she explained.

The alternative to leaving, she said, is to stay in Hinton and plan to maintain a quality of life with the adult child living in their home.

It’s important for her son to stay close to home for support and in the community, however a major challenge is how to plan for the day when that parent or guardian is unable to care for the adult with supportive needs.

Access to appropriate support will ensure better transitions through stages of life and she added that her family’s quality of life has improved significantly since moving to the community. LeFrancois reflected on how to get the ball rolling as she could see there was an obvious need to bridge the gaps. 

“I felt it was not acceptable that such a great community was not utilizing available resources or capitalizing on potential employment opportunities,” she said.

Through the Abilities Network, participants will work toward developing independent and assisted living and networking with local businesses to identify employment opportunities. 

LeFrancois noted there is room for growth and encourages the community to think of creative ways to include all residents into the workforce. 

The response from the community has been great and many feel this is long overdue, she added. 

A couple  of meet and greet collaboration sessions have been held in the Green Square with a very positive response. 

LeFrancois has received calls and emails offering guidance and direction, which has been helpful. 

“I believe Hinton has what it takes to make this work and will turn it into something to be modelled after for other communities,” she said.

LeFrancois has met a small number of local parents of a child or adult with challenges, but believes the need in the community is greater than the group has realized. 

“I am reaching out to as many people as I can to have this conversation and to hear the stories.” she said.

The network has afforded consultation with existing services and nonprofits in the community, which has been helpful, LeFrancois said. There is also a need for respite services and mental health support for care providers as caregiver burnout is a real issue.

LeFrancois hopes the network will prompt residents who live here in Hinton, who don’t know what it’s like to live with challenges, to think about it.

“Talk about things such as mobility challenges and trying to safely navigate snowy sidewalks with a wheelchair. Or talk about getting around town and the challenges of accessing parking stalls with enough room to accommodate your special transportation needs. Open the mind to service animals and how someone needing that animal requires that support,” LeFrancois said.

She added that even though some people with challenges can’t say they want to live on their own, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to. 

“They have wants and needs and interests like any other person. Be careful to not dismiss their abilities while you are focusing on the disabilities,” LeFrancois said.

For more information or to get involved with the abilities network, reach out to hintonabilities@gmail.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram at Hinton Abilities Network.

Town to remove old Maxwell Lake bridge section

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


A report providing an explanation of the ongoing work regarding the replacement of the Maxwell Bridge was brought to council during the July 21 standing committee meeting. 

Part of the scope of work included the removal of the old bridge section that is partially submerged under the new bridge, explained CAO Emily Olsen.

The town has a limited timeframe to comply with an Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) Code of Practice to remove the material before winter frost sets in, which has to take place after June 31 to comply with direction from the Federal Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO), she added.

“The more communication, the better on this. Especially any types of surface disruption,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson about the report.

The report stated that approximately 2.5 metres of the old bridge deck was not removed in September 2018 due to complications resulting from the high-water levels. 

Attempts were made to remove the section in February 2019, which were also unsuccessful as only the top two inches of the bridge were above the frozen lake.

Contractors will attempt to remove this portion again in 2020. 

The Code of Practice Application to remove the old section, approved by AEP, expires on June 25, 2021. 

No work that requires entering into the water in this area can be completed between April 15 and June 31 due to direction from DFO.

Typically, all work that involves machinery in and around this area is preferred to be completed during winter conditions, however this work cannot be completed during winter due to the section being under water, the report stated.

The new bridge will be utilized as a work platform and the old section will be lifted from the water using connecting chains.

Using this procedure will minimize the disturbance to the bottom of the water body, according to the report.

If unsuccessful, administration will have to refer to AEP for further directions.

Administration anticipates the work to be done as planned and within budget prior to June 25,

2021. 

The carry forward amount for deficiency work is $39,376. 

The report stated the payment will be released to the contractor, ISL Engineering, once the deficiency work is complete, but the amount will remain in the Federal Gas Tax Grant reserve account if the work is not completed.

The replacement of the Maxwell Lake Bridge was approved by council during the budget process of 2018.

The old pedestrian bridge was slumping into the wetland and was structurally compromised, according to administration.

This prompted the removal of the old bridge, and the installation of a new bridge and the new ramps to access the bridge.

Installation of the bridge was completed in 2019 but new ramp access has not yet been completed.

Temporary steps are in place to support accessing the bridge.

Council halted Town and ISL work in relation to the bridge excluding the bridge steps and requested a report with options including high level costs.

Coun. Albert Ostashek asked when the report regarding the future of the ramp installation would come forward, to which Peter Vana, director of development services, stated that administration is still waiting on approvals from AEP before they discuss further with council.

Hinton schools prep for in-class teaching

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


Students, parents, teachers, and school boards adapted to a different way of learning during the first wave of COVID-19 this spring as kindergarten to Grade 12 education moved online.

The Government of Alberta announced recently that in-person learning would proceed in the fall with health measures in place for everyone’s safety.

“With back to school season approaching, many parents have been eagerly waiting to see what school will look like this upcoming year,” stated Martin Long, West Yellowhead MLA, in a letter.

Long noted that public health measures in schools include frequent cleaning of surfaces, introducing hand sanitizers to school and classroom entrances, grouping students in cohorts, and adjusting schedules to allow for greater physical distancing. 

“While school may feel a little different at first, these changes will allow a safe, near-normal return to class,” Long noted.

Alberta’s government has developed a re-entry toolkit to help prepare parents and students for what to expect in the new school year with videos for students, a guide for parents, frequently asked questions, school posters, a self-screening questionnaire in multiple languages, and links to health guidelines. 

The Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) is preparing to return to in-school learning this September, as directed by the Premier, the Minister, and the Chief Medical Officer.

GYPSD developed an inventory of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items that schools can access as needed, including hand sanitizer, masks, thermometers, physical distancing floor decal reminders, and plexiglass screens. 

Extra custodial staff will be employed to assist with cleaning during the day and each school will have a re-entry plan.

After being finalized by the principals, the specific plans for each school will be provided to families and posted on each school’s website.

Principals are working with facilities and occupational health and safety (OH&S) to reorganize the physical building where necessary, stated Constantine Kastrinos, deputy superintendent of GYPSD.

Sick students who cannot attend classes will be supported by teachers to access their learning via Google Classroom as they did in the fall.

Families are able to continue “Virtual Learn-from-Home Education” next year and will be able to receive support through the GYPSD’s The Learning Connection (TLC) sites, stated Kastrinos.

“TLCs are learning centers that were used to provide alternate programming/scheduling for students who need to plan their days differently through distance learning; we will leverage these sites throughout our Division to meet the blended/virtual needs of families,” explained Kastrinos.

TLC sites are partnered with the local high schools and are under the leadership of that principal. 

Safety protocols and health measures established by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Education to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 will be implemented at each school.

These protocols include daily self-assessment screening expectations for all staff and students using the tool provided by Alberta Education, enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfecting including all areas of the school, washrooms and high-touch surfaces cleaned several times a day, and a regularly scheduled deep cleaning.

Evergreen Catholic Separate School Division (ECSSD) is also planning supports and programming to allow a degree of choice within Scenario One of Alberta’s back-to-school re-entry plan.

The division is working to put together options for families who want to continue with school from home in September while still remaining enrolled in their designated school. 

Details will be shared in the coming weeks, stated the website.

Trans Mountain continues work in West Yellowhead

Masha Scheele
reporter@hintonvoice.ca


Trans Mountain continues to be active in the Yellowhead region.

Construction is taking place in a series of phased activities until October 2021 along the pipeline right-of-way through Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Yellowhead County, Edson, and Hinton, according to an update from Trans Mountain.

Prep work near Hinton will last until January 2021 and consists of preparing the right-of-way and establishing access points. Pipeline construction west of Edson to Hinton will begin this September and is scheduled to run until October 2021.

Trans Mountain anticipates a peak of 800 workers in the area by the end of 2020. 

Preparing the right of way includes locating and marking all buried facilities, surveying, flagging and staking the right-of-way and any temporary workspace required for construction, installing signage, clearing trees and vegetation from pre-approved areas essential for construction, and disposing or burning unsalvageable timber.

“We don’t anticipate any traffic delays, however we do have a traffic mitigation strategy in place,” stated the Trans Mountain media relations team.

This work includes working with TELUS to relocate their utilities in some areas, which should not impact services.

Pipeline construction itself will begin with removing topsoil and grading the surface in preparation for heavy equipment and pipe delivery. Pipes will be laid out and welded together before a protective coating is applied.

Non-destructive examinations will be performed to ensure the quality of the welds before a trench is dug and the sections are lowered.

Trenches will then be backfilled to protect the pipe and cleanup activities can begin. Some of this construction will require horizontal directional drilling in areas of Hwy. 16 and the CN Railway, Sundance Creek, and Hardisty Creek, as well as watercourse crossings.

Construction of the pump station west of Hinton is currently being done and is scheduled to finish in March 2021.

Four active COVID cases in Hinton

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


After months with no new incidents of COVID-19 in Hinton, four confirmed cases popped up early this past week.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) stated they cannot comment on specific COVID-19 cases due to patient confidentiality, but did say they take immediate action as soon as a test is positive.

“All individuals exposed to a case are contacted directly by AHS. Only those individuals contacted directly by AHS, are considered exposed to any case. If you are not contacted directly by AHS, you are not considered exposed,” said Logan Clow, senior communications advisor at AHS.

Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is legally required to self-isolate, as well as anyone who is considered by health officials to be a close contact, added Tom McMillan, AHS assistant director of communications.

These individuals are contacted directly by AHS. Contact tracing conversations vary depending on the person’s symptoms and how long they may have exposed anyone else.

An exposure assessment is done in every contact case to determine further contact tracing and further recommendations. 

The medical officer of health may become involved in making recommendations when complexities arise in certain cases.

Hinton’s first case was confirmed on March 23, followed by the second on March 29, and the third on March 31 – all have since recovered.

Hinton’s new cases come at a time when active cases across the province have reached 1,397 on July 27 – the highest number in a couple of months and an upward trend that both Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, have called concerning.

Hinshaw recently announced a new online risk assessment tool for those who may be at a higher risk of severe outcomes. The tool will help identify someone’s level of risk for a severe outcome and to guide their protection decisions, this can be found at alberta.ca.

“While all of us need to regularly take actions to protect those around us, independent of our risk level, this tool will help Albertans understand their personal risk for severe outcome should they become infected,” said Hinshaw.

For a quicker way to receive results of COVID-19 tests, individuals can sign up for my health records online, which shows all medical test results.

There have been 187 COVID deaths reported in Alberta with 8,886 residents who have recovered.

Hinton RCMP responded to a call last week of a vehicle with a licence plate from the United States driving around Hinton, possibly vacationing. The vehicle was not located, stated Staff Sgt. Chris Murphy of the Hinton RCMP.

The RCMP has had several similar COVID-19 related calls, as well as calls to assist Alberta Health Services (AHS) or Health Canada by checking on individuals that are supposed to be either in self-isolation or quarantine.

The Town of Hinton declared a state of local emergency (SOLE) and implemented local safety measures on April 2, which ended in mid-May.

The Hinton Voice contacted the Town on the afternoon of July 28 about efforts to monitor the local COVID-19 situation and when or if the Town would consider reinstating the SOLE or any other measures. However, Mayor Marcel Michaels, CAO Emily Olsen,  and communications coordinator Josh Yaworski were unable to respond prior to our press deadline.

The Town of Hinton has partially reopened the recreation centre since July 13. 

Phase 2, which was implemented on July 27, allowed access to one arena for floor activities, but no ice. 

The start of ice season activities are anticipated to take place at the end of August. Recreation management plans for staff to return to the arena for training, refrigeration start-up and ice making, which will take a minimum of three weeks before first use. This will have an impact on the level of outdoor parks service.

Planned opening of the pool is now mid-September as extended repairs required on the pool change room air handling system are ongoing. Town staff discovered that a heat exchanger had failed and required replacement during the annual pool maintenance shutdown. Delivery of the new part is expected to take approximately six to eight weeks. Phase one of the pool will include lane swim, aqua fitness classes, family swim, and private lessons.

The Town stated that parks crew addressed the backlog and continues to deliver all parks services.

Water levels at the Beaver Boardwalk area is being monitored and regulated in effort to maintain trail access towards the pedestrian bridge on the south.

Community delivered events support will again be available Aug. 14, once the events coordinator returns.

The Hinton Municipal Library implemented a relaunch transition plan and phase 2 came into effect on July 13.

Phase 2 expanded on appointment only services. Patrons can visit TracPac to place holds and order library items. 

The library is also offering laptop lending and internet access to the community of Hinton.

The Library, the Northern Rockies Museum of Culture & Heritage, Hinton Family Resource Network, and Bringing Empowered Students Together (B.E.S.T.) are offering summer activities, programs, and prizes for Summer Reading Club (SRC) 2020.

Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) at the West Fraser Guild is now open, but FCSS staffing remains at 75 per cent service level.

The Youth Centre is set to reopen on Sept. 7, community development services will be available in late August, and the Freedom Express Bus Service will be available tentatively in early Fall.

Free masks are available on the public transit system and passengers are highly encouraged to wear them.

To help prevent the spread of COVID only every other seat is being used to keep the two metre distance between passengers and the driver.

For the most recent COVID-19 updates from the province, head to alberta.ca/covid.

Any person who wants to be tested can book it online using the AHS assessment tool, or call Health Link 811 for assistance.

Olsen promoted from interim to permanent CAO

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


After nearly seven months of searching for applicants, vetting, and interviews, the Town of Hinton hired Emily Olsen as their next chief administrative officer (CAO).

Olsen started working with the Town in July 2011 as a communications coordinator, and nearly nine years later, to the day, she signed on as CAO.

“I applied to be CAO because I care about this community, about the people I work with, and about the potential Hinton has,” Olsen told The Voice.

Hinton has been Olsen’s home for 11 years, and the place her family chose to settle. 

Her initial role introduced her to the various Town departments, services, programs, projects, and priorities. Olsen moved into the communications and strategic advisor role after some time and focused on providing strategic advice and consultation to administration and council in advancing organizational and strategic communications, economic development, and public engagement priorities.

Her final move before becoming the CAO was into the strategic services manager position, which managed governmental relations, and corporate planning.

She stepped up as interim CAO when the previous CAO was let go from his position in December 2019.

During her time with the Town of Hinton, she also worked to support the Hinton and Region Economic Development Coalition’s #HintonFirst campaign, the Hinton mountain pine beetle (MPB) advisory committee, preparing a communications strategy and development of the Economic Development Strategic Plan.

“The last seven months as Interim CAO have been incredible: I’ve experienced so many facets of the job in such a short amount of time,” Olsen stated.

Olsen guided the town through the initial COVID-19 wave, drawing on her emergency management training and experience to manage the municipal response.

Seeing the support from colleagues to aid in this response was an opportunity to test the depth of the Town’s emergency preparedness, Olsen added.

“I have appreciated the professionalism and commitment of our senior leadership team during my transition as Interim CAO. The successes we saw over the last several months are due to our ability to work together to accomplish what needed to take place,” she said.

Mayor Marcel Michaels noted that Olsen strived at finding solutions to anything that came up and demonstrated that for seven months as an interim CAO.

She communicated with council to ensure they knew about what went on weekly, he added.

“Emily has shown strong leadership during COVID, especially somebody who did not have prior CAO experience demonstrated a sense of urgency, and dedication. Her work ethic helped guide the community through what was a unique situation,” said Michaels.

He went on to say that Olsen has created a shifting culture in positivity and always targeted the “Yes mentality” as interim CAO.

Olsen stated that she took time to reflect on what she would bring to the CAO role and to understand her family’s needs and expectations prior to applying for the position.

In speaking with colleagues and other CAOs to understand if the position was right for her, one CAO encouraged her to trust her instinct.

“At the very least, the process would be constructive for me to learn where I can do better, and to understand what’s involved should I apply in the future,” she said.

She applied toward the end of the intake, and participated in a screening interview, self-assessment, and two interviews with Council before being selected as CAO.

Optimum Talent was hired to help the Town’s hiring committee with recruiting and marketing the position.

This consulting firm allowed the Town a wide range of candidates best suited for the job.

The hiring committee put together a profile of the job description, which could be adjusted throughout the process based on the quality of the applicants. The firm vetted each applicant and recommended a long list of potential candidates.

The hiring committee, which was made up of the Mayor, Coun. JoAnn Race, and Coun. Albert Ostashek, took this list and created a shortlist.

From there, all council members took part in two stages of interviews.

“It feels great. It’s about hiring somebody that can do the job, but also hiring somebody who is part of the community is extremely important,” Michaels said.

Olsen stated that as a public servant, she values communication, consideration, honesty and fairness.

“Being bold enough to admit what I don’t know or need support with has not been something that has interfered with my desire to learn and grow as a municipal leader,” she said.

She added that fortunately she has people around her that have been open to this, and appreciates their involvement in helping her through her professional development in this role.  

“There is a learning curve whether a candidate has previous experience or is new to the position in that, coming to a new Town it takes time to understand the community, Council and the organization,” she said.

Despite having been the Interim CAO for the last several months, there is a transition that involves stepping fully into the role by communicating priorities and vision for the organization. In determining what these are, more engagement of staff, Council and the community need to take place, Olsen explained.

“My priorities are in building relationships with our employees, community groups and businesses, as well as our regional partners. Supporting Council through the last year of this term to see progress on their strategic priorities, a productive budget process, and on advocacy for Hinton’s needs to other levels of government is where I am looking to provide value and leadership to the organization,” Olsen said.

Olsen is the fifth CAO announced by the town over the past six years, and five interim CAOs stepped in when needed.

Bernie Kreiner retired from his CAO position in summer 2014 after 21 years in the position.

Mike Schwirtz was then named as interim CAO before later being named as the permanent CAO, a position he held until accepting another CAO position in June 2017.

Laura Howarth, the town’s director of community services, took on the role of interim CAO while the town worked with a recruitment firm to hire a new CAO.

Stephane Labonne started on Oct. 5, 2017, but he announced his resignation four months later due to unforeseen family circumstances.

His last day was March 16, 2018 and the director of corporate services at the time, Denise Parent, took over as interim CAO.

Denise Thompson was hired to become the next permanent CAO in Hinton but withdrew in July 2018 before her official start date.

Mike Koziol was then hired as interim CAO to bridge the gap until another search for a fulltime CAO could be conducted.

Martin Taylor was hired and started in January 2019, but was let go in December 2019.

Olsen was then named acting CAO, then interim CAO, before being hired to the full time position.

Remuneration policy clarifies conference attendance

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


The remuneration policy returned for discussion at the standing committee meeting on July 21 and some minor changes were added.

The amended policy will come back to a regular council meeting for decision, with the additions stating that the mayor can attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference yearly, while all councillors may attend once during their term.

The language used prior, allowed for more councilors to attend in years when the conference was held closer and it wouldn’t use up as many travel dollars, explained Heather Waye, strategic services manager.

Funding for FCM attendance is separate from council’s professional development funding, clarified Carla Fox, corporate services director.

Coun. Albert Ostashek added that the option for other council members to go was based on the amount budgeted that year and the full utilization of that, without touching the professional development funds.

“I think it’s fair and equitable and sensible that the mayor goes every year and each councilor has one opportunity within their term at their discretion to choose which year makes the most sense,” said Dewly Nelson.

Mayor Marcel Michaels brought up that having councilors attend FCM within their first three years gives them an opportunity to learn and exercise what they learned.

Some current councilors delayed going to FCM in their first two years due to strong participation and this year FCM was cancelled, Nelson pointed out.

Any councilor that is fully intending to run again can make the decision whether to expend those funds prior to an election, he added.

“I think it’s best to give each individual councilor the freedom to decide when is appropriate for them to go, because further to that, having experienced this myself as well, work commitments also play into things as well and I don’t want to put that onto a councilor,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn.

Council then changed a previous decision that administration complete all Council timesheets to instead continue with council completing timesheets as per current practice.

Exception reporting was introduced in previous meetings and is the practice of submitting a remuneration adjustment request based on differing activities from those that would be considered the norm such as committee meetings, while administration tracks all regular meetings.

This practice is currently used among Town of Hinton Salaried staff.

“It would be simpler for me just to keep with the current reporting system that we have where we report all the meetings that we attend during the month as part of the remuneration form,” said Ostashek.

He added that if they must report some meetings, they may as well report all meetings.

Maguhn pointed out that this may put administration in a difficult position if councilors record different meeting times or don’t claim certain meetings for potential political reasons.

“If a councilor chooses to not claim for a particular meeting they attended, they’re not really acting in good faith in their role as an elected municipal official. And if they’re claiming for time that’s beyond what should be allotted for the times of the meeting, the meeting minutes have a start and end time of every meeting,” Ostashek said.

Previous additions, revisions, and clarifications included clarification regarding the definition of meetings, that consecutive meetings be deemed a single meeting in relation to meeting fees, that basic reporting be required for Council Approved Committee & Board meetings, that reports be included in the Council Agenda package on a monthly basis, and that items that constitute conference participation be tracked and reported separately from regular remuneration.

The definition of workshops was clarified within the policy upon committee’s request, to distinguish between self-directed workshops paid via honorarium or the Professional Development Account, and those which are led by administration or directed by council where additional meeting fees apply.

This policy comes back to council in the spring of 2021 for additional review and changes will be assessed at that time, clarified CAO Emily Olsen.

Man found guilty of sexual assault in Hinton provincial court

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative


A man accused of assaulting an underage female in 2016 and unlawfully marrying a child was found guilty July 15 on four counts laid against him.

Michel Frank Bouvier, was found guilty on two counts of sexual assault, assault causing bodily harm, and assault.

Bouvier was found not guilty of marrying a child, something the victim said during her testimony consisted of an indigenous pipe ceremony after which she believed Bouvier was her husband.

He was initially charged with eight criminal offences, including two counts of sexual assault, two counts of assault, aggravated assault and two counts of uttering death threats.

In rendering his decision in Hinton’s provincial court, Judge R. Shaigec stated that he did not believe multiple accounts of Bouvier’s testimony, resulting in the guilty verdicts. He further explained his rationale for the non guilty verdict for the marrying a child charge.

In light of eradicating practices such as marital rites and ceremonies with individuals under the age of 16, the events needed to be determined objectively, he stated.

The question he posed was if the ritual or event was a genuine cultural practice that was actually intended to result in the marriage of a child. He believed this event paved the way for months of assault and sexual assault but with the absence of evidence on this point, he had a reasonable doubt whether the events described by the victim, which he believed to be true, actually constituted a genuine customary indigenous marriage rite or ceremony intended in the two being married.

Bouvier continuously interrupted while Judge Shaigec explained his reasoning before finding him not guilty of marrying a child.

Bouvier was scheduled to appear in person for the verdict, but a COVID-19 outbreak at the Edmonton remand centre forced a change in plans and he instead appeared via closed circuit TV. 

He mumbled and talked over the judge as the verdict was read out in Court of Queen’s Bench in Hinton.

Testimony during the trial, which began in February, outlined how Bouvier was 54 while the complainant was a teenager at the time the crimes occurred between Oct. 1, 2016 and May 9, 2017.

The now-19-year-old woman from a small town between Edmonton and Red Deer, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, met Bouvier when she was 15 years old at an indigenous craft market in Edmonton. At the time she felt she needed help spiritually and emotionally, she explained during her examination in court.

Bouvier was a medicine man, which can be described as a traditional healer and spiritual leader who serves a community of indigenous people, and offered to help the complainant.

The woman went on to testify during the trial that Bouvier had brainwashed her into believing she could trust him and love him.

Their relationship quickly moved from mentorship to being intimate with each other.

Bouvier first kissed her while they both stayed at her relative’s house and he told her not to tell anyone, according to her testimony.

In Bouvier’s testimony, he claimed the 15 year-old walked into his room that night wearing nothing but a robe and underwear attempting to seduce him.

The judge stated in his reasoning that he did not believe Bouvier’s account of this incident to be the truth.

Bouvier and the teenager began engaging in sexual intercourse regularly and Bouvier asked her to be his partner while knowing that she was only 15 years-old, she said.

The judge noted the two had sex mutliple times and accepted the victim’s best estimate of around 30 times while she was 15. These occurred in absence of consent and proves Bouvier committed the offence of sexual assault, the judge said. During the time, she didn’t know what the age of consent to sexual activity was and felt like a daredevil, she said.

At one point in her testimony, she described when Bouvier first became aggressive after being away too long with male friends. That same night, he threatened her with a curse and told her horrible things would happen to her.

According to her testimony, Bouvier then asked her to come with him to Hinton where they stayed with friends in October 2016. Her family first reported her missing on Oct. 13, 2016, and an amber alert was sent out.

When police found her in North Edmonton after Bouvier dropped her off, she lied about her whereabouts, testifying she had been instructed to do so by Bouvier.

She eventually told police she was with Bouvier and that he was helping her spiritually, she said. Soon after she ran away to Hinton again, Bouvier told her she could not look other men in the eyes and accused her of being intimate with the friend they stayed with.

After returning from participating in Halloween activities against Bouvier’s wishes, things escalated quickly. He questioned her about being with their male friend and accused her of lying.

After throwing her candy across the room he physically assaulted her to the point where her teeth fell out. She later lied to the dentist and said she slipped on ice and hit her face on concrete.

For this reason, Bouvier was found guilty of assault causing bodily harm.

The complainant testified that Halloween was the beginning of a torturous relationship, including spiritual abuse where she was made to stay up late to beat off the devil from her sleep, and also physical abuse.

The following day, the victim said a marital ceremony took place at that same friend’s house in Hinton and photos of the ceremony were soon deleted by Bouvier, because he did not want any evidence.

She claimed that Bouvier hit her regularly and she would count how many days she didn’t get hit.

Bouvier introduced her to his family using a fake name and claimed she was older than reality, she said. Believing he would change, the woman said Bouvier began forcing her to have sex with him when she didn’t want to.

With another missing persons alert out while they were staying with family in Saskatchewan, Bouvier put her on a bus headed for Edmonton. Police pulled over the Greyhound bus just outside of Vegreville on March 23, 2017, after receiving info from various people, and took her to the police station.

After being interviewed she was taken home to her grandfather, but she continued texting Bouvier.

She testified she was still brainwashed and believed Bouvier was a good person. She agreed to run away to meet him again.

Police then located her at a home near Rocky Mountain House on April 11, 2017, and she was brought back to the police station again.

Court documents show that Project KARE Unit, an RCMP unit that investigates and reviews files of missing vulnerable persons throughout Alberta, became involved due to high-risk behaviour and frequent missing persons reports.

As of April 18, 2017, documents state that members of Project KARE were suspicious of Michel Bouvier and thought that he might be sexually exploiting her. 

She made no criminal allegations and the focus of any interviews at the time was on “gathering information and stabilizing her in the community.”  

She returned to her relative’s house and said it was nice being back with family but was paranoid about Bouvier.

“It was disgusting, I didn’t think much of the abuse but thought, he’s my husband, I need to go back,” she testified.

It was during the final trip back to Hinton when he took her to the ceremonial grounds outside of Hinton where they stayed in an abandoned trailer as Bouvier taught her about ‘culture’. The police arrived on May 9, 2017 and arrested Bouvier on unrelated matters.

Bouvier was taken into custody, and the teenager was placed “in care,” according to legal documents. Children’s Services was also involved due to the number of times she disappeared and returned, and she claimed they wanted to put her under protection.

At the time, she believed she was just going to Bouvier for help. She now claims she didn’t realize Bouvier brainwashed her.

At 17 years old, she contacted the police and alleged that Bouvier had committed serious crimes against her during a seven-month period two years prior.

During those seven months, the police took witness statements from various people as part of five separate missing persons files aimed at trying to find her and keep her safe. Those witness statements focused on finding her but had all been lost in the meantime. The judge dismissed an application for a stay of proceedings in regards to these missing statements.

Court documents say that each time police found her throughout 2016 and 2017, she denied that Bouvier had engaged in any criminal wrongdoing.

Bouvier denied all allegations, saying after meeting the victim in the summer of 2016 he did not see her again until police found the two together in May of 2017.

A psychological assessment of Bouvier was ordered at the Alberta Hospital in support of a dangerous or long term offender application within the next 60 days.

This matter returns to court on Oct. 21, 2020 to be spoken to as a docket matter. While a dangerous offender hearing was spoken to in court following the verdict, the Crown has yet to make an application for a dangerous offender hearing.

In October, a possible Crown application can be scheduled and sentencing dates. 

Bouvier went through a dangerous offender hearing in 2011 after he was found guilty of assault with a weapon in Saskatchewan, but was instead declared a long-term offender and put under a 10-year supervision order. The Hinton Voice apologizes for these errors.


* This version of the article has been edited to include corrections made since print publication. The Hinton Voice apologizes for previous errors.*

Two men charged after break and enter


Two Hinton men face charges related to an early morning break and enter incident at The Brick on June 21.

Hinton RCMP responded to a call of a break and enter at The Brick around 4 am and it was reported that two male suspects continued to remain inside the premises.

One suspect, James Ray Horn, was located and arrested outside the location, while the other suspect was seen fleeing the building upon arrival. A large 40” television was located nearby that had been stolen from the business and was recovered.

Efforts to locate the second subject, Jakob Brian Martens, were unsuccessful at that time and he remained at large until July 20, when the Hinton RCMP reported he was located.

Further investigation into this matter revealed that one of the suspects had allegedly attended The Brick the previous day and was observed on video surveillance carrying a large television, which he had not purchased. As a result of this investigation, two individuals are facing charges.

Horn, 37, of Hinton is charged with break and enter commit theft to business and disguise with intent.

 Horn was released from custody with conditions to appear in Hinton Provincial court on Sept. 2, 2020.

Martens, 23 of Hinton, AB. is charged with two counts of break and enter commit theft to business and one count of disguise with intent.

No information was provided about his appearance dates and whether he was released from custody.